Your body, it turns out, is extremely efficient at taking and storing excess calories. Whenever your body finds that it has overload calories on hand, it changes them to fat and saves them for a rainy day. It only takes 3,500 excess calories to create 1 pound of new fat on your body. If you are taking in just 500 extra calories per day, then you are gaining a pound of fat per week (500 calories x 7 days in a week = 3,500 calories/week). Since it is easy to get 500 calories from just one ice cream cone or a few cookies, you can see that weight gain is completely effortless in today’s society. Food is just too easy to find.
Many people prefer to have a set of rules to follow when dieting. Others may crave the emotional support from attending counseling sessions or meetings. Diet products, books, and services have become a billion-dollar industry, so there are obviously many people looking for help with weight control.
Before you jump on the latest diet bandwagon, remember that organized diet plans and programs can only result in weight loss if you burn more calories than you consume.
No dietary supplements, exercise devices, combinations of foods, or specific patterns of eating will change this fact.
Some examples of popular diet plans include the Atkins diet, The South Beach Diet, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Body for Life, Dr. Andrew Weil’s diet plan, and the Ornish diet. All of these diets have their promoters, and all of them have been successful for some people.
Because eating habits and preferences differ widely among individuals,before you decide on a diet plan, ask yourself if the plan sounds realistic to you. If the plan involves exact calculating of portions and calorie counting, are you up to the task? If you’re forbidden to eat certain foods, will you develop cravings for them?
Do you feel that you will feel comfortable sticking to the diet guidelines? Will the diet’s requirements fit easily into your daily schedule? Finally, consider that once you’ve lost the weight, you may regain the weight if you return to your previous eating habits, so any weight-loss plan should be something you can live with for a long time.
For more on comparing diet plans, please read the Comparing Popular Weight Loss Diets article.
Remember that the most successful weight loss comes from dietary changes and healthy food choices that will stay with you over time, not from diets that leave you feeling deprived or result in binge-eating episodes.
By adopting sensible eating habits and practicing portion control, you can eat nutritious foods so that you take in as many calories as you need to maintain your health and well-being at your ideal weight. Often, weight loss occurs on its own simply when you start making better food choices, such as avoiding
- processed foods,
- sugar-laden foods,
- white bread and pasta (substitute whole-grain varieties instead),
foods with a high percentage of calories from fat, and
- alcoholic drinks.
While nothing is absolutely forbidden, when you do succumb to temptation, keep the portion size small and add a bit more exercise to your daily workout.
By replacing some unwise food choices with healthy ones, you’ll be cutting back on calories.
If you add some moderate physical activity, you have the perfect weight-loss plan without the need for special or inconvenient (and often expensive) diet plans.
Let’s look at an example of a successful no-diet weight loss program:
A 45-year-old woman complains that she has gradually put on 12 pounds over the past year. In the last month, she’s faced a stressful work deadline and added another 4 pounds to her frame.This individual’s goal is to lose the 16 pounds she has gained. Since her weight has been gradually increasing, she knows that she is consuming more calories than she is burning, especially with her sedentary job. She decides that a weight loss of 1 pound per week (equal to a deficit of about 3,500 calories, or cutting 500 calories per day) would be acceptable and would allow her to reach her goal in about four months.
She decides to make some changes that will allow her to cut back an average of 250 calories per day.Skipping a large glass of sweetened iced tea will save about 200 calories.Substituting mineral water for the cola she regularly drinks during meetings can save another 150 calories.Foregoing her morning muffin snack (or eating only half a muffin) can also save 250 calories or more.To reach her goal of a 500-calorie-per-day savings, she adds some exercise.Getting up early for a 20-minute walk before work and adding a 10-minute walk during her lunch break add up to a half hour of walking per day, which can burn about 200 calories.
On weekends, she plans to walk for 60 minutes one day and spend one hour gardening the next day for even greater calorie burning. If walking for 60 minutes is too much, two 30-minute walks one day would burn the same number of calories.Twice per week she plans to stop at the gym on the way home from work, even if only for a half hour of stationary cycling or swimming (each burning up to 250 calories).
By making just some of the dietary cutbacks mentioned and starting some moderate exercise, this individual can easily “save” the 3,500 calories per week needed for a 1-pound weight loss, leading to a healthy rate of weight loss without extreme denial or deprivation.
Furthermore, her changes in diet and lifestyle are small and gradual, modifications that she can maintain over time.
The first goal of dieting is to stop further weight gain. The next goal is to establish realistic weight loss goals. While the ideal weight corresponds to a BMI of 20-25, this is difficult to achieve for many people. Thus success is higher when a goal is set to lose 10% to 15% of baseline weight as opposed to 20% to 30% or greater. It is also important to remember that any weight reduction in an obese person would result in health benefits.
One effective way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories. One pound is equal to 3500 calories. In other words, you have to burn 3500 more calories than you consume to lose one pound. Most adults need between 1200- 2800 calories/day, depending on body size and activity level to meet the body’s energy needs.
If you skip that bowl of ice cream, then you will be one-seventh of the way to losing that pound! Losing one pound per week is a safe and reasonable way to target off extra pounds. The higher the initial weight of a person, the more quickly he/she will achieve weight loss. This is because for every one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight, approximately 22 calories are required to maintain that weight. So for a woman weighing 100 kilograms (220 pounds), he or she would require about 2200 calories a day to maintain his or her weight, while a person weighing 60 kilograms (132 pounds) would require only about 1320 calories. If both ate a calorie-restricted diet of 1200 calories per day, the heavier person would loose weight faster. Age also is a factor in calorie expenditure. Metabolic rate tends to slow as we age, so the older a person is, the harder it is to lose weight.
There is controversy in regard to carbohydrates and weight loss. When carbohydrates are restricted, people often experience rapid initial weight loss within the first two weeks. This weight loss is due mainly to fluid loss. When carbohydrates are added back to the diet, weight gain often occurs, simply due to a regain of the fluid.
General diet guidelines for achieving and (just as importantly) maintaining a healthy weight:
A safe and effective long-term weight reduction and maintenance diet has to contain balanced, nutritious foods to avoid vitamin deficiencies and other diseases of malnutrition.
Eat more nutritious foods that have “low energy density.” Low energy dense foods contain relatively few calories per unit weight (fewer calories in a large amount of food). Examples of low energy dense foods include vegetables, fruits, lean meat, fish, grains, and beans. For example, you can eat a large volume of celery or carrots without taking in many calories.
Eat less “energy dense foods.” Energy dense foods are high in fats and simple sugars. They generally have a high calorie value in a small amount of food. The United States government currently recommends that a healthy diet should have less than 30% fat. Fat contains twice as many calories per unit weight than protein or carbohydrates. Examples of high-energy dense foods include red meat, egg yolks, fried foods, high fat/sugar fast foods, sweets, pastries, butter, and high fat salad dressings. Also cut down on foods that provide calories but very little nutrition, such as alcohol, non-diet soft drinks, and many packaged high-calorie snack foods.
About 55% of calories in the diet should be from complex carbohydrates. Eat more complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole-grain bread, fruits and vegetables. Avoid simple carbohydrates such as table sugars, sweets, doughnuts, cakes, and muffins. Cut down on non-diet soft drinks, these sugary soft drinks are loaded with simple carbohydrates and calories. Simple carbohydrates cause excessive insulin release by the pancreas, and insulin promotes growth of fat tissue.
Educate yourself in reading food labels and estimating calories and serving sizes.
Consult your doctor before starting any dietary changes. You doctor should prescribe the amount of daily calories in your diet.